Part Thirty Eight
Operation Desert Storm was over but the World Wrestling Federation was still hoping to capitalize on the Persian Gulf crisis by pitting Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter against “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan. With Slaughter still proclaiming the virtues of Iraq’s leader Saddaam Hussein, and Hogan fighting to defeat Slaughter for the WWF Championship, a clash was coming at WrestleMania VII.
The question was, would anyone care?
The Main Event aired on February 1, 1991 on NBC, beginning with photos of the Hulkster on an USO tour, visiting the troops, including those hospitalized. Hogan teamed with Tugboat to defeat persistent foes Earthquake and Dino Bravo, but the bigger threat was elsewhere on the card.
WWF Champion Sgt. Slaughter was defending the belt against the patriotic “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. Duggan seemed to have things going his way until he was distracted by Slaughter’s manager, General Adnan. Duggan made the mistake of turning his back on Slaughter, getting blasted in the back with a steel chair. Slaughter continued a beatdown on Duggan until Hulk Hogan ran in for the failed save. The Hulkster ate a steel chair as Slaughter left him and Duggan both laying in the ring, spitting on them for added insult.
Operation Desert Storm had ended on February 28, 1991, less than six weeks after it began. That didn’t stop the WWF from continuing its push of Sgt. Slaughter as an Iraqi sympathizer. Slaughter was determined to destroy Hulkamania. Behind the scenes, the WWF had to hire bodyguards for Slaughter and his family due to threats he received stemming from his anti-American gimmick.
As many fans know, WrestleMania VII was originally scheduled for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum but moved to the much smaller Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. The WWF would claim the move was due to security concerns, but others allege the move was necessitated by low ticket sales (presumably over fans’ distaste with the WWF’s exploitation of the Persian Gulf War to advance WrestleMania VII’s main event).
Whatever the reason for the move, WrestleMania VII arrived on March 24, 1991. The show began with a brief video package of Sgt. Slaughter burning a “Hulk Rules” flag followed by a stare down between Hogan and Slaughter. Country legend Willie Nelson opened the show with a good rendition of “America the Beautiful.”
Backstage, Sean Mooney interviewed WWF Champion Sgt. Slaughter and General Adnan. Adnan cut a promo in some sort of gibberish, sucking the life out of the room. Slaughter ordered Mooney to attention and addressed the Pukeamaniacs and their leader; the Ultimate Slime, Hulk Hogan. Slaughter told Hogan he was the WWF Champion and there was nothing Hogan could do about it. Slaughter said he was wrestling by his rules. Video aired of Slaughter’s attack on Hogan with a chair as Slaughter gloated. Slaughter said he’d be even happier when he saw Hogan defeated 1-2- 3. Slaughter said he might get disqualified or counted out, keeping Hogan from winning the championship. Was this Slaughter’s game plan?
“Mean” Gene Okerlund interviewed Hulk Hogan (who was wearing a star-spangled doo-rag). Hogan said Slaughter might be laughing now but he wouldn’t be laughing after WrestleMania. Hogan said Slaughter would never torch another Hulkamania flag.
Hogan said Slaughter had no idea what secret weapons or tactics his little Hulkamaniacs had in store for him. Video aired of Hogan’s recent match with General Adnan where Slaughter delivered a post-match beatdown on the Hulkster, once again demonstrating “Slaughter’s Rules.”
Okerlund asked Hogan if he was the same man as last week. Hogan said he was a new man, proclaiming Slaughter would have to tear out Hulk Hogan and America’s heart to keep the WWF Championship. Hogan said “Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light Sgt. Slaughter, that I’ll be the new WWF Champion and you’ll be a victim of twilight’s last gleaming.”
Howard Finkel introduced the guest ring announcer, celebrity Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, guest timekeeper Marla Maples, and guest commentator, Regis Philbin. Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan were on play-by- play and color commentary respectively. Trebek introduced the WWF Champion followed by the challenger, Hulk Hogan.
Carrying an American flag, the Hulkster entered the ring. Slaughter and Adnan bailed out as soon as Hogan came in, no doubt aware Hogan was looking for payback.
It’s stall time as Slaughter refuses to get into the ring, leading Hogan to go out after him, chasing him and General Adnan around the ring. Hogan gets Slaughter and Adnan in the ring but both men refuse to get close to Hogan. The referee orders Adnan out of the ring as Slaughter takes his sweet time removing the WWF Championship from his waist. Longtime fans may remember that Slaughter spent some time in the American Wrestling Association (AWA) before rejoining the WWF, and it’s clear Slaughter has picked up some of AWA star Larry Zbyszko’s stalling tactics.
Given the caliber of both wrestlers at this point in their careers, the stall may be one of the highspots of the match. Both men circle the ring before finally locking up in a collar and elbow tie-up. They circle around the ring, trying to get leverage. Both Slaughter and Hogan do a good job of showing their intensity as neither man can overpower the other. They’re both in the corner on two different occasions when the referee gets in to break them up, only to get knocked down for his trouble.
Hogan finally overcomes Slaughter, shoving him down to the mat. Slaughter complains that Hogan grabbed a handful of hair and while the Hulkster is never above bending the rules (or breaking them for that matter), it’s not as if Slaughter has a headful of flowing locks to grab onto.
Hogan goes for a side headlock, followed by an Irish whip and shoulderblock. Neither man budges, but a second shoulderblock by Hogan knocks Slaughter off his feet. Things spill out of the ring where Hogan begins brawling with Slaughter.
Seeing the Sarge in trouble, General Adnan delivers a double axhandle to Hogan’s back. Hogan turns his attention to Adnan, allowing Slaughter to grab a chair and blast Hogan in the back with it. However, Hogan isn’t selling and he throws Slaughter back into the ring where the WWF Champion begins begging for mercy. Hogan looks to the crowd, then goes in after Slaughter, only to catch a double poke to the eyes.
Slaughter strikes Hogan with punches that look like something Grandma might throw after too many highballs. Slaughter rams Hogan’s head into the turnbuckle, utilizing every brawling move he can think of. Slaughter hits more punches but misses an elbowdrop, allowing Hogan to go back on the offensive. The challenger hits Slaughter then knocks Adnan off the mat apron with a punch.
Slaughter moves in after Hogan but gets a kick to the gut and a rake of the eyes. If Slaughter thought he was wrestling Bob Backlund, he’s sadly mistaken as Hogan can brawl with the best of them. Atomic drop on Slaughter followed by a cover for a two-count. Slaughter bails out again and the Hulkster follows him, raking his nails on the Sarge’s back.
Hogan throws Slaughter back into the ring and whips him into the ropes, hitting his Axe Bomber (a move you didn’t see Hogan use very often unless you watched No Holds Barred or Hogan’s Japanese matches. No word on whether this was a ploy by Hogan to get an extra half-* on the match from Meltzer). Cover but again, Slaughter kicks out at two. Hogan is taking the battle to Slaughter. At this point, Hogan is just pounding the tar out of Slaughter, punching him and ramming his head repeatedly into the top turnbuckle. Hogan knees Slaughter from behind bouncing him out of the corner like a pinball. The referee checks for a pulse on Slaughter as Hogan waits to dish out more punishment. Hogan seems to be ready to try anything to beat down Slaughter, actually going to the second rope.
Although Slaughter catches him, Hogan rakes the eyes, followed by a bodyslam. Hogan drops an elbow on Slaughter, followed by another one. If this was a video game, you’d have to wonder where Slaughter was getting all the health powerups from. Hogan has the match won, but seems driven to deal out more pain to Slaughter. Hogan goes to high-risk territory, climbing the top rope. However, General Adnan distracts him, giving Slaughter time to grab Hogan and slam him off the top rope. Slaughter bides his time, then hits the Slaughter Cannon on Hogan, sending Hogan over the top rope and onto the floor.
In an amazing reversal of fortune, the Hulkster has gone from hunter to hunted, as Slaughter gains the upper hand. Will the Hulkster be able to rally back against Slaughter and Adnan? Join us next time for the conclusion to WrestleMania VII’s main event and the big behind-the- scenes surprise following the match.
Cawthon, Graham. “The History of the WWE. Results. 1990”. The History of the WWE. Accessed 26 May 2017.
Wikipedia contributors. "Royal Rumble (1991)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 May. 2017. Accessed 27 June 2017.